Stepping Up to Life
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens’ words were intended to describe the French Revolution, but equally apply to the past year of Caroline’s life.
Caroline stepped up as the boss of her life and took charge of her happiness in a way she never had before. She stepped into a promotion that she created for herself from a position in an organization where she previously felt she didn’t have any opportunity for progression. And she stepped into her own power in a visceral way that has inspired other women (and men!) around her.
But in the midst of all this progress, Caroline lost her mother to cancer.
I sat down with Caroline to ask how she plans to carry on from here, and what lessons she’s taking away from this past year.
Emilie: First of all, Caroline, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother passed just two weeks ago, and I am so appreciative of you taking the time to share your story with us during this period of mourning and healing.
Caroline: Thank you. It’s what my mom would have wanted, she was so proud of me. And she herself was such a BOSS!
E: So tell me where you were this time last year. What was going on with you?
C: To be honest, I was feeling really stuck and hopeless. It was the dead of winter, life felt gloomy, I wasn’t engaged in my work, and I was struggling with depression. It just felt like everything was off, and I didn’t know what needed changing. But after talking at length with my friend, we decided this was a lousy time of year for everyone, so we went about doing our best to rebrand February!
E: Nice! Yes, please. February is the worst. Everyone knows that.
C: Right?! So we decided we were going to make it FABruary instead! We set up little challenges for ourselves throughout the month, and decided we would start small, but do everything in our power to make February fabulous in every way. It all started by deciding to email all my friends and be really honest: I told them I was having a hard time, this is what I was going to do about it, and that I needed their help to make it happen.
E: Love it! So what was FABruary all about?
C: We set goals that sounded like fun! I was going to go to as many Kazaxe dance classes as I possibly could. I was going to make a real effort to network with more people in my industry through one-on-one coffee meetings to start exploring my career options. There were a bunch of little mini goals like that, spanning across work, health, and just plain fun. I emailed them out to all my friends and before you know it, they all pig-piled on. By articulating exactly what I wanted more of in my life, my friends showed up and joined in on them! It was so simple and yet so extraordinary.
During the very first coffee meeting I had that month, a colleague of mine told me there was a Bossed Up Bootcamp coming up and I applied right away and went.
E: Nice! What came from Bootcamp for you?
C: The timing was absolutely perfect. It hammered home a huge lesson I took away from this past year, that work, love, and wellness – they’re all connected. I realized I needed to advocate for myself in new ways in order to create the life I wanted. And I walked away with real, tangible negotiation and assertive communication skills that would I would put to very good use just a few months later.
E: Ooh, tell me more!
C: Well, by being more intentional with my goals, I started to build key relationships with senior mentors in and outside of my company. They helped me see that chasing new job prospects outside of my organization wasn’t the only option – I could create the job I really wanted and gain the change I was craving in my work within my very own establishment. I just needed to lobby for myself in ways I hadn’t been able to before. That revelation helped me successfully make the case to my employer to promote me into a leadership position where I work exclusively with our clients in the advocacy space (my longtime passion and focus).
E: Amazing! Congratulations!
C: Thank you. What stood out to me the most is that I never would have been in a position to do that had I not been working on improving my own sense of self and practicing owning my own power all year long. Focusing on my mental and physical wellbeing, growing my network, adopting powerful mentors — all of these things helped me step up to the plate and advocate for myself in an exhilarating new way.
E: Wow. I am so proud of you, Caroline. And I’m sure your mom is, too.
C: I know she is! You know, throughout all this progress, I struggled a LOT with guilt. I felt terrible for not being by her side as her cancer took a turn for the worse, right as I was finalizing my promotion. But when I went home to Orlando to be with her, people I hadn’t seen since my childhood congratulated me – because my mom was telling everyone!
She even told me how when I had the incredible opportunity to give a short TED-style talk on power at an industry event, she and her team of doctors were watching the YouTube video in the waiting room at the hospital, cracking up and cheering me on as she prepared for surgery. That made me feel so good because at that time I was really struggling with balancing being there for her but, also focusing on my goals.
E: That’s amazing, Caroline. She must be so proud to see you thriving. So I have to ask, in the face of such senseless loss, how are you holding up? What are you focused on now, boss?
C: Well, I’m coming back up for air after taking a good amount of time off. It would be easy for me to crawl under the covers to hide forever, but I’m not going to let that happen. My goal now is to show up and and keep bossing up. It’s what my mom would have wanted, and it’s time for me to build on the progress I’ve made already.
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